My other sister, Paige, wanted to contribute a guest post in honor of my cancerversary yesterday. On the bright side of cancer, I think it has made my sisters and I closer (if that’s possible) and it has also brought out the best in almost everyone else we know. I’m continually surprised and touched by the things all the wonderful people around me do and say. My sister(s), included:
As we pass the one-year anniversary of Lindsey’s diagnosis, I can’t help wanting to reflect on what has happened over the last year. Cancer seems to have an amazing ability to change everyone it affects, and not just those who are sick.
One year ago, I was a carefree second-year college student, 500 miles from home. My primary concerns were surviving midterm season and deciding what I was going to be for Halloween. Suddenly, the cancer diagnosis made everything else seem incredibly trivial. After the “grieving” period of a few days was over with, my next instinct was to take the next flight home, no matter the cost. But flights were way too expensive to buy at the last minute, I was left to stick it out for the 3+ weeks until Thanksgiving break. Those weeks were perhaps the longest of my life, and my college (which I love for its plentiful green fields, flat bike paths, and progressive ways) began feeling more like a prison. During those long weeks, extended periods of grief would come at random, and would be punctuated by shorter periods of unnatural happiness (given the circumstances). I soon came to rely on my amazing friends at school (who would come to meet/get me at any time of the day or night), yoga classes, nightly conversations with the family, and the endless stream of schoolwork to keep me occupied and my mind off cancer.
Like Sara said, I resisted telling my friends for a good week or so; I felt like I was burdening them with the awful “secret” that young people get cancer too. Most of all, I didn’t want to put them in that uncomfortable position of not knowing what to do and say. This became too difficult to maintain: Cancer was the elephant in every conversation and the knowledge of it was just too big to keep inside. People each have their own ways of showing support: some inquire about Lindsey’s treatments and truly care what the answer is, others say nothing but give me an extra big hug to show that they care.
Today, I am back to being the optimist I always have been: I generally go about my everyday life quite happily and somehow find pleasure in even the most mundane tasks. I look back on my carefree, “pre-diagnosis” self as someone who was lucky enough to be oblivious to the pain and evils of the world. I have learned important lessons like to never-ever Google things like “neuroendocrine tumor” (no good will ever come from the untrained eye reading inaccurate materials). I still get the all-too-familiar jolt every time cancer is mentioned, and cancer still crosses my thoughts too many times to count, but the emotions associated with these thoughts are more manageable.
It took me awhile to figure out what I can do to help (I wanted desperately to feel useful and needed, even 500 miles away, for my own sanity). So I focused on things which although don’t directly benefit Lindsey, made me feel much better: I donate blood as often as I can, and I participated in Relay for Life, a 24-hour fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, which turned out to be an important part of me becoming myself again. As for helping Lindsey, all I can offer is myself: my optimism, my support, me. And this blog.
If you feel moved to write a guest post, too, I welcome them! Send me a pitch!